DRP News Bulletin 12 Dec 2016 (The interest is not in irrigation but in constructing assets- says Water Secretary)

In an interview with The Third Pole, Shashi Shekhar, secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation discussed the problems and prospects of India’s water sector. A number of issues which SANDRP and several other water experts and environmentalists have been calling attention to for decades were affirmed by the ‘man behind the scene’. 

Perhaps most importantly he reiterated what he admitted at India Rivers Week held in Delhi in Last week of November that the ‘politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus’ was the “biggest bane of India’s water sector”.

Pinpointing to the average gap of about 45% between irrigation potential and actual irrigation he said- “The interest is not in irrigation but in constructing assets because that is where the money is. All the states have sizeable budgets for this. After all that, the total (canal) irrigated area in the country is 10-15%. So why should it get such vast resources? It does so because the contractor is interested, and there are below the table payments. This is the problem.”

Making another landmark statement he said “The solution lies in giving control of all irrigation – surface and groundwater – to the people who use the irrigated water, the farmers.”

He acknowledged that when we get all our water in 90 days which we have to use year round, storing water on the surface is not the best way to do it. Effective storage can happen only below the ground level.

He also highlighted importance of gram panchayats and role of government. “Control of the water has to be in the hands of panchayats….And when the panchayats or local water users groups have the (water availability) information, they do take the correct decision. When they know the supply, they manage the demand.”

“For equitable distribution of water, panchayats have to sit and decide. Law cannot help in this. And it works….. But for the villagers to draw up a water budget, they need to know how much water they have. That is where the government comes in.”

He admitted that there is no reliable data available for water availability in the rivers. River basins have undergone sea of change over past few decades and government is struggling with the updated information.

He also admitted the grim reality of sewage treatment plants constructed during Ganga Action Plan. “As far as STPs are concerned, most of them are either lying idle or are being bypassed. That is because [the builder’s] interest is to construct STP and he is only concerned with the construction part of it. It is just the same as for irrigation. Once it’s built, it doesn’t matter to the builder.”

NORTH EAST MONSOON 2016

 Kerala: The Kerala State Government is expecting crop failure on a massive scale this year on account of the acute drought situation. The Kerala Agricultural University and the Soil Survey and Soil Conservation Department are examining the mass appearance of earthworms and large-scale fleeing of frogs in three panchayats in Wayanad, both apparent indicators of drought. In October, the State Government had declared all 14 districts of the state as drought-hit. The announcement was made by Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan in the Assembly.

Karnataka: Of the 177 taluks in the State, 110 have now been declared drought-hit in Karnataka. Four Cabinet sub-committees have been constituted to study and assess the implementation relief measures in drought-hit taluks across the State. The panels headed by Ministers have been asked to tour villages, taluks and district headquarters till December 20 and collect information about the implementation of measures to tackle drought. After the tour, panels have been asked to submit reports to the Government.

FLOODS

Andhra Pradesh: Flood prone low lying area of Amravati is not suitable to build capital city, observes Himanshu Thakkar, national coordinator of South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP). A delegation of SANDRP visited the capital city area on Sunday, and interacted with local farmers. Thakkar wondered why the state government selected high-yielding green fields for construction of the new capital.

Speaking to reporters, Thakkar said riverbank cities across the world are located on an elevated plane unlike Amaravati. “Amaravati area is low lying and located a little below the river bank,” he pointed out. To overcome flooding in the future, Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) is planning to construct all new structures with an elevation, which in turn would submerge the existing villages in the future, he noted. He also cautioned that massive floods that hit Krishna in 2009 will happen again and alleged that the CRDA is flouting a number of environment and river protection rules.

amaravati-himanshu-thakkar-the-hindu

SANDRP Coordinator Himanshu Thakkar discussing with local environmentalists at Amravati (Photo: The Hindu)

Tamil Nadu: An article by Nityanand Jayaraman in The Hindu highlights the contradictions and inadequacies of the state government’s efforts to flood-proof its capital. According to Jayaraman laying stormwater drains to evacuate water from high-density residential areas built inside lakes and floodplains cannot but be inadequate. And even as one agency works to undo some of the damage caused by decades of bad decisions, numerous others are furiously building ill-designed bridges and roads, flattening dunes, and filling up salt pans and water bodies.

In the frenzy of focusing on the end of pipe solutions the absorbers of natural shocks like heat waves and water scarcity resulting from failed rains are being ignored. Evacuating rainwater to save the city from floods may increase vulnerability to water scarcity. Protection of the natural defences such as dunes and sandy beaches, native vegetative cover and a healthy network of waterbodies is critical to the resilience of human settlements. For which availability of open, unbuilt land and water is a must.

The study rightly highlights that “Chennai and other metropolises have growth agendas that are at odds with their ability to fortify themselves against natural shocks.”

Chennai Floods of Dec 2015 (Photo: The Hindu)

Chennai Floods of Dec 2015 (Photo: The Hindu)

DAMS

Karnataka: While Karnataka is involved in a legal battle with Tamil Nadu over sharing of Cauvery water, another shock awaits the state, this time from the Yettinahole diversion project.
A fresh study conducted by a team of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru headed by TV Ramachandra concluded that the Rs 13,000-crore project doesn’t hold much water to quench the thirst of the parched districts of Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Tumakuru and Bengaluru Rural. Calling it “an ecological blunder”, the study found that Yettinahole can generate only 9.5 tmcft of water against 24 tmcft as claimed by the state government which is awaiting environmental clearance to go ahead with project.

Gujarat/ Madhya Pradesh: Well-known social activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in an interview with Rajiv Shah, editor, http://www.counterview.net, said that the Gujarat government cannot close down Narmada dam’s gates, as it would risk the life and property of at least 20,000 oustees of Madhya Pradesh living in 192 villages.

The Justice S S Jha Commission, after a seven-year investigation, has exposed the rampant forgery of documents that allowed compensation to be paid to impostors. The commission also alleged that the MP government did not cooperate with its inquiry and made every attempt to prevent the damning report from being made public before it was finally tabled in the state’s Vidhan Sabha at the end of July. The commission recorded at least 2,000 fraudulent cases.

MP government was unwilling to release the report, but it is now publicly available, owning to legal intervention of Narmada Bachao Andolan, first in the state’s high court, and then in the Supreme Court.

Andhra Pradesh: Centre has ruled out halting the Polavaram project despite admitting that consent for the venture was not taken from affected villagers of Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The centre is not ready to halt the project despite Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments expressing concern over design flood and back water calculations of the Polavaram project. 

Minister of state for water resources and river development Sanjeev Balyan while replying to a question raised by BJD MP from Nabarangpur Balabhadra Majhi Thursday said, that they have asked Orissa and Chhattisgarh to hold gram sabhas for the project. The project is at an advanced level and cannot be halted at this stage. 

Basic purpose of the gram sabha consent seems to be defeated since the gram sabhas will hav no choice but to accept the project which “cannot be halted”.

Meanwhile according to the news reports Concrete works at the mega Polavaram project on the Godavari in West Godavari district will begin on December 19. Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharati will be invited to inaugurate the work.

Polavaran Dam Construction (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Polavaran Dam Construction (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Gujarat: Since July 15, the peoject affected persons (PAPs) of different rehabilitation sites had taken turns to sit on hunger strike. The protest are being held to voice their unhappiness over several long-pending demands. The families were shifted to different rehabilitation sites in the Chhota Udepur district as a part of their rehabilitation sites. The PAPs have been claiming that their demands are pending for over two decades now. The PAPs claimed that these had remained unattended despite repeated representations. The PAPs who have raised the demand include those from 19 villages of the Narmada district in Gujarat that were affected because of the project as well as some residents of who belong to Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Odisha: Land oustees of Hirakud dam project under the banner of Budi Anchal Sangram Samiti (BASS) staged a demonstration in front of the office of Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC, Northern Division) here on Wednesday over their long pending demands.They also submitted a memorandum, addressed to RDC (ND).

The State Government had declared allotment of 10 decimal homestead land to the oustees, however thousands of applications for land allotment are still. They demanded settlement of the issue and necessary action for payment of unpaid compensation to displaced families. They also demanded recognition to 29 villages, situated on the periphery of the reservoir and resettled in areas acquired by Water Resources Department, as revenue villages.

While the struggle of the oustees is ongoing, water availability of the Hirakund reservoir may severely curtail due to plans of Chhattisgarh government to use total 27.48 million acre feet (MAF) Mahanadi water through its various projects. The water use capacity of the existing projects of the Chhattisgarh is around 8.31 MAF. It is planning to add another 19.17 MAF thorough its upcoming projects. Odisha is planning 10 major and 16 medium irrigation projects in Mahanadi downstream of Hirakud.

INTER-STATE WATER DISPUTES

Cauvery Water Dispute: The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the central government’s plea to transfer the Cauvery river water dispute to inter-state water tribunal for want of jurisdiction and held that it will continue adjudicating the contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing of water. The court said that Section 6 (2) of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act clearly laid down that Parliament did not intend to put any embargo on the jurisdiction of this court but only provided for a parallel forum.

Krishna Godavari Water Dispute: Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) refused the claim of Telangana on Pattiseema waters. Telangana government is arguing that the water diverted using Pattiseema Project have to be considered in Andhra Pradesh’s share of waters which will leave Telangana with more share of the actual Krishna water. Refusing this argument the Board decided that Andhra Pradesh will get 63.13% and Telangana will get 36.87% share in the main projects on Krishna River based on the rainfall registered. According to the existing storage, Telangana will get 43 TMCs and Andhra Pradesh will get 87 TMCs this season. Both the states are told to send an opinion on the same by 13th of this month. If they failed to do so, it will be deemed as agreed.

HYDRO POWER

A study of small hydro projects: A recently published study by Sarah Kelly-Richards et all. “Governing the transition to renewable energy: A review of impacts and policy issues in the small hydropower boom” has identified four major concerns: (1) confusion in small hydropower definitions is convoluting scholarship and policy-making; (2) there is a lack of knowledge and acknowledgement of small hydropower’s social, environmental, and cumulative impacts; (3) small hydropower’s promotion as a climate mitigation strategy can negatively affect local communities, posing contradictions for climate change policy; and (4) institutional analysis is needed to facilitate renewable energy integration with existing environmental laws to ensure sustainable energy development.

Central Government: India has brought cross border electricity trading policy to facilitate energy trading with neighboring countries. The policy says that import permission will be issued only to Indian entities, companies owned or funded by the Government of India, Indian Public Sector Units and private companies having at least 50 percent Indian entity ownership. Clause 5.2.1 (b) of the guidelines says that Indian entities will import electricity from the projects in which Indian entities have 100 percent equity, which is owned or controlled by the Government of India, or companies of neighboring countries. Any other entity, partially owned by the government or any other private or public limited company, needs have to case by case approval to export electricity. Any other trading parties or projects financed or developed by foreign direct investment other than India have been put in ‘case to case’ category. 

The ‘Guidelines on Cross Border Trade of Electricity’ issued by the Indian Ministry of Power on Monday envisages setting up an authority to regulate all the transmission and import export issues of electricity trading. 

IRRIGATION

Maharashtra: Faulty farm ponds pockmark tribal villages in Palghar, an adivasi district carved out of Thene district of Maharashtra.  Constructed under the Maharashtra government’s Jalyukt Shivar scheme to end water scarcity in the state, these ponds hold no water. The farm ponds were poorly planned and hurriedly constructed. Within a month of the withdrawal of the monsoon, these structures have completely dried up. Some were washed away in the rains. Many of them were not even demanded by the farmers, but rather forced onto them by the contractors hand in glove with Tehsildar.

Farm ponds, built under the Jalyukt Shivar, could have been successful in drought-proofing these villages had they been constructed by taking into consideration the suggestions of the farmers, who know the local terrain and the flow-path of rainwater. Instead many of them were washed away in the first rains, making a mockery of the implementation.

Farm Pond in Palghar (Photo: Nidhi Jamwal)

Farm Pond in Palghar (Photo: Nidhi Jamwal)

Maharashtra dam scam: Despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis admitting in front of the State Assembly in June 2015 “We pushed large dams, not irrigation”, the State Government has continued to fund the dam scam of Maharashtra.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra, which is investigating an irrigation scam that surfaced during the previous Congress-led government, has lined up another 67,000 crore to complete 277 pending projects across the state. The government plans to complete the projects by 2020.

‘Of the Rs 67,000 crore, the government will provide Rs 24,000 crore through budgetary allocations in phases. The government also plans to raise loans worth Rs 12,770 crore from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and issue bonds worth Rs 14,800 crore. Central assistance of Rs 3,830 crore will be sought and another Rs 2,000 crore as assistance from NABARD.

Andhra Pradesh: The “war on drought” announced by Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has failed to yield the desired results, with groundnut crop output plummeting despite crores of rupees spent on providing water for irrigation.

Scanty rain during July-August prompted the state government to declare a ‘war’ on drought by deploying thousands of rain guns to wet standing groundnut crops in 15 lakh acres in Anantapuramu district, 4.5 lakh acres in Kurnool and two lakh acres in Chittoor as it faced the threat of drying up.

6,777 rain guns and 6,434 sprinklers were deployed in Anantapuramu district, 2,285 rain guns and 2,686 sprinklers in Kurnool, 3,915 rain guns and 3,855 sprinklers in Chittoor and 356 each in Kadapa districts, according to government statistics.

The ‘war’ cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 280 crore with Rs 160 crore spent on procuring the rain guns alone. The balance Rs 120 crore was spent on sprinklers, motor pumps, pipes, fuel and other needs, according to a senior official of the Disaster Management Department.

The latest reports on crop cutting, however, are dismal. As against the normal yield of 1000kg per hectare, the crop-cutting experiment revealed that only 213kg was achieved, indicating massive losses to farmers.

Rain Guns in Andhra Pradesh (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Rain Guns in Andhra Pradesh (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Telangana: Despite much hype created by the state government on spending Rs 25,000 crore on irrigation sector in each financial year, it appears to have failed in achieving its goals in the first year itself.

In fact, after formation of Telangana, the state has so far spent Rs 21,873 crore on irrigation sector. In 2014-15, the state spent Rs 5,290 crore which includes Rs 65 crore Central assistance. In 2015-16, the state spent Rs 7,933 crore on irrigation, which includes Rs 113 crore Central assistance. In 2016-17, it spent Rs 8,650 crore, including  Rs 311 crore Central assistance. This year, the state is expecting Rs 640 crore Central assistance.

RIVERS

Delhi: Environmentalists have raised a red flag over the proposal by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) to set up a landfill spread over 49.24 acres on the bed of the east bank of River Yamuna in New Delhi – an active and vulnerable flood plain. In a letter to Delhi Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a civil society consortium dedicated to the restoration of river Yamuna as an eco-system, has asked for the former’s intervention to prevent the project from being executed.

The environmentalists only came to know about the matter after EDMC filed an application before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), seeking clearance for the project.

New Delhi: Multiplicity of authorities, lack of assistance from state governments and dearth of monitoring has led to the failure of cleaning Ganga, a consortium of seven IITs told the National Green Tribunal on Thursday. The consortium’s submission came in response to a query raised by a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar which had asked the expert body about the reasons for failure of Ganga Action Plan-I and II.

The consortium of seven IITs had submitted its report on Ganga River Basin Management Plan 2015 to the government in March last year. It was given the responsibility of preparing Ganga River Basin Environment Management Plan by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between 7 IITs and MoEF on July 6, 2010. The thrust of this Plan was to relate diverse environmental degradations occurring in the basin with their causal factors, and frame a roadmap for redeeming National River Ganga Basin’s Environment.

Uttar Pradesh: In past two years Yamuna has shifted closer to Kambakshpur village just off the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway on border of Haryana & Uttar Pradesh. The river has also submerged some of their farms and divided their land holdings.

Using Google Earth Engine, The Hindu traced how the Yamuna river changed its course over the past 32 years, from 1984 to 2016. The images confirmed that the curvilinear river stretch along Kambakshpur village witnessed a significant lateral shift from the Haryana side towards Uttar Pradesh since 2010.

Environmentalists are saying this could be due to the rampant illegal sand mining, unchecked construction as well as legal infrastructure projects on or near the banks.

River Yamuna at Kambakshpur Village, Noida, Uttar Pradesh (Photo: The Hindu)

River Yamuna at Kambakshpur Village, Noida, Uttar Pradesh (Photo: The Hindu)

Maharashtra: The state cabinet on Tuesday approved the Rs 990.26 crore Mula-Mutha river restoration project. Called ‘Pollution abatement of rivers Mula-Mutha in Pune’, it is set to be the biggest sewage treatment and river restoration project sanctioned under the National River Conservation Plan.

The project will receive 85% funding (Rs 841.72 crore) from the Union government, while the Pune Municipal Corporation will have to make a provision of Rs 148.54 crore. The project aims to treat city’s sewage and restrict its direct release into the rivers. Major works under the project include 100% treatment of sewage, installation of sewage treatment plants, construction of toilets to stop open defecation, setting up a botanical garden and creating awareness among citizens to keep rivers free of pollution. The project is expected to be completed by January 2022.

SANDRP has written about this 1000 crore scheme which is not backed by any studies or planning. PMC celebrated a loan agreement with JICA for this project in January 2016. However it failed to produce basic details like quantity of sewage generated and treated in front of NGT in May 2016.

Uttarakhand: Taking a strong view of alleged irregularities in the use of funds allocated to clean the Ganga, Uttarakhand high court (HC) while disposing of a PIL in this regard, ordered a special audit to be done by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of “all centrally-financed schemes launched to rejuvenate river Ganga as well as the amount spent by the state governments for the river’s rejuvenation.” The HC also ordered the CAG report to be submitted to the President of India within six months.

Among other important directions, the HC also directed the Union government to “constitute an inter-state council under Article 263 of the Constitution of India for all the riparian states through which river Ganga flows i.e. Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal, within a period of three months from today.” “The council shall make recommendations to the central government within a period of three months after its constitution. The central government shall consider the same within a further period of three months and take necessary measures to restore river Ganga to its pristine glory,” the order said.

Jammu & Kashmir: The encroachment upon the banks of the river Jhelum continues despite government’s drive against the encroachers after the High Court’s intervention in April 2015.  In April 2015, just after the floods stuck the valley, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir took note of the encroachments along the banks of the river Jhelum and asked for restoration of the original width of the river. It had also ordered immediate removal of all illegal structures. Subsequently, the order was implemented by the authorities and a full-fledged drive was launched in which a number of illegal structures were dismantled. However, the drive has been discontinued, with people saying that random encroachments are taking place in dark as well as in broad daylight. 

Enchroachment on Jhelum (Photo: Kashmir Monitor)

Enchroachment on Jhelum (Photo: Kashmir Monitor)

River Health Assessment: India Water portal summarizes a paper, “Evolving human dimensions and the need for continuous health assessment of Indian rivers” published in the journal Current Science on July 25, 2016. The paper explains the concept of river health as an integration of physical, chemical and biological factors that maintain the structure and function of the natural ecosystem of the river. It also includes the inherent ability of a river to recover after disturbance, to support local plants, animals and human populations and to maintain key processes such as sediment transport, nutrient cycling and energy exchange.

Water Quality Monitoring: Indian government and the US multinational technology company, Intel, on Thursday joined hands for development of state-of-art solutions for real-time air and river water quality monitoring.

Aim of this initiative of the department of science and technology (DST) and the Intel is to develop key technologies for sensing, communication and analysis of large-scale data collected from autonomous networks. This will be followed by integration and deployment for water and air quality monitoring in real-time.

“Water Day: Dr BR Ambedkar’s birthday, 14 April, will be observed as “Water Day” across India. The day will be observed to mark Ambedkar’s contribution in water resource management of the country.

Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti announced the same on 06 December 2016 while addressing a National Seminar on Marching ahead on Dr Ambedkar’s path of water resources management for inclusive growth. She was the Chief Guest of the seminar that was organised by Central Water Commission in New Delhi.

SAND MINING

Telangana: While Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change is yet to grant environmental clearance to the projects, permission to Telangana State Mineral Development Corporation (TSMDC) to mine the sand in the above areas has hastily been granted by the Bhupalpalli district level sand committee chaired by Collector Murali.  The committee has resolved to grant permission to irrigation department to excavate 10.35 lakh cubic metres of sand for the construction of Medigadda barrage and five lakh cubic metres of sand for the construction of pump house at Kannepally. An estimated 4.18 crore cubic metres of sand is available in the area to be submerged under proposed Medigadda barrage on river Godavari in Mahadevpur mandal in the district, informed District Collector A Murali. Similarly 1.26 crore cubic metres of sand is available in the areas that come under the proposed Annaram barrage, the report said.

WETLANDS & WATER BODIES

Karnataka: Taking a low-cost, low-tech approach to filter out sewage remnants that have made its way into the water body Artificial Floating Islands were ‘launched’ in the Puttenahalli lake of Bengaluru in June.

So far the results have been encouraging. Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD)- amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms to break down organic material — has come down by two-thirds while dissolved oxygen — amount of oxygen present in the lake — had gone up by a third between June and October.

Floating Wetlands in Bengaluru (Photo: The Hindu)

Floating Wetlands in Puttenahalli Lake, Bengaluru (Photo: The Hindu)

GROUND WATER

Punjab: Punjab is heading for record paddy production this year. The state agriculture department has estimated the harvest for the 2016-’17 kharif (monsoon) season will be 186 lakh metric tonnes, nearly 10 lakh metric tonnes more than last year’s yield. State officials are jubilant as it is “an all-time high output”. However with the fact that over 97% of the cultivated area in Punjab is irrigated of which 75% is irrigated by groundwater while only 25% of the area is irrigated by canals the news may be more worrisome. Earlier this month, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal stressed that Punjab was in danger of turning into a desert in less than a decade due to falling groundwater levels. The 2013 Report of the High-Level Expert Group on Waterlogging in Punjab noted that “the water table in the state is falling by up to one metre per year”. According to Dr SK Jain, regional director (north-western region) of the Central Ground Water Board’s Chandigarh office “…if the present trend continues, then 50 blocks in 14 districts of Punjab may completely run out of groundwater in the next one decade.”

Uttar Pradesh: Out of 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, 34 are ‘over exploited’ for groundwater. State capital Lucknow along with Aligarh, Allahabad, G B Nagar, Ghaziabad, Kanpur (city), Kasganj, Kaushambi, Mathura, Meerut, and Varanasi among others falls in this category. Shamli and Pratapgarh districts top the list with 140% groundwater exploitation rate followed by Saharanpur (132%), Firozabad (117%) and Agra (113%). Notably, in April, the National Green Tribunal had issued notice to several Uttar Pradesh agencies after residents moved the tribunal over depleting groundwater in Ghaziabad and Hapur districts.

SOUTH ASIA

 Pakistan: The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have refused to come on board Pakistan’s proposed $14 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam on the Indus river, which India objects to, but still, Islamabad today approved a financing plan for the dam, Radio Pakistan reported today. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif granted “in principle” approval to the financing plan for the 4500 megawatt Diamer-Basha dam. He has given a go ahead for preparations to start work on the dam before the end of next year. A portion of the required funding for the dam will come from allocations made by the Public Sector Development Programme and from the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).

Two years ago, the World Bank had refused finance Diamer-Bhasha, because Pakistan didn’t want to seek a no-objection certificate from India for the project. The dam is planned in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, which India claims is a part of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. Late last month, the Asian Development Bank too declined to fund the dam over the Indus river.

Bhutan: A recent probe in the history of large earthquakes in Bhutan marks a prominent shift in the perception that “Bhutan does not get large earthquakes”.

A paper published last month, by Hetenyi et al (2016) has unearthed details of a large earthquake, likely to have been approximately M=8.0 (the range is 7.5-8.5), in Bhutan in 1714 AD.   The evidence includes a series of documentary accounts of the damage caused by the earthquake, and data from trenches across the fault that provide evidence of the movement.

This study is important as it shows that the entirety of the Himalayan Arc has the potential to generate devastating earthquakes, and thus to suffer earthquake-induced landslides.  Bhutan is no exception. The implications for hazard management in Bhutan are clear.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Vietnam: An agricultural wonder, the Mekong Delta which produces half of Vietnam’s rice, now faces growing environmental challenges. Despite the abundance of water, the Mekong delta’s network of rice paddies, marshes and canals is dramatically impeded either by too much water in the flood season or too little during the low flow. Upstream dams built by China are a prime culprit, though changing weather, saltwater intrusion, biodiversity depletion, rising sea levels and industrial pollution are all contributing to the mortal threat to the ecology of the delta, historically the fertile rice bowl for over 20 million people in southern Vietnam and a major contributor to the country’s vast rice export business, which now holds a fifth of the total world export market.

Burma: The Burma Rivers Network (BRN) has called for a halt to hydropower dam projects, special economic zones and natural resource extraction in ethnic areas where conflicts are raging, until the country has reached a federal peace agreement.

BRN released a documentary video, “Voices of the Dammed,” compiling the devastating impacts of dam projects along Burma’s biggest rivers: the Salween, Irrawaddy, Chindwin, Shweli and the Paung Laung.

Findings from BRN’s two-year documentation process—conducted from 2014 to mid-2016—indicated that both completed and planned dam projects have diminished local people’s livelihoods and security as well as destroyed thousands of homes, historic cultural sites and ecosystems.

REST OF THE WORLD

Finland: Winner of the 2016 Emerging River Professional Award, Tero Mustonen talks to India Water Portal at length about how utilising traditional knowledge can help in dealing with the challenges rivers face.

The Emerging River Professional Award is an initiative of the International RiverFoundation. The award recognises and fosters early career professionals who have demonstrated innovation, excellence and leadership in the areas of rivers, basins or river-dependent communities.

Tero is from the Snowchange Cooperative in Finland. He is also a leader of Selkie, a small village of 300 people. Selkie has one of the most advanced ecological restoration project in Finland, monitoring rivers at the moment. Also, this project is quite effective in terms of engagement with fishermen, women, hunters and other villagers as well.

UK: Winter floods of 2015-2016 in the UK was one of the most extreme and severe hydrological events of the last century, concludes a new research by scientists from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the British Hydrological Society in the UK. According to the study Winter 2015/2016 episode ranks alongside the floods of 1947 as one of the two largest flood events of the last 100 years at least.

The research brings together both river flow and meteorological data in an analysis of the events that led to extensive river flooding in northern England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of Wales over a three month period.

ENVIRONMENT

MoEFCC: The Union government is formulating a “mountain policy” for conservation of Himalayan region and Western Ghats. The policy will incorporate landscape planning, water conservation, livelihood opportunities and various other important aspects that will help “keep the sanctity of mountainous areas intact,”.

Both the regions are plagued with deforestation, wildlife and habitat loss, population pressure, encroachment among others. Niti Aayog on various occasions had suggested preparing mountain policy to mitigate disasters and check haphazard developments, which is the root cause of natural calamities.

Hydropower projects will however not come under the framework of the policy, the additional secretary said. It is unfortunate when it is a widely accepted fact that a slew of hydropower projects lined up in Himalayan states has played a major role in amplifying the damage during events such as Uttarakhand floods or Sikkim earthquakes. Mountain policy exclusive of hydropower project may have significantly limited effectiveness.

CLIMATE CHANGE

USA: US will average a 180 percent increase in extreme downpours by 2100 according to the latest science research. Extreme downpour and associated weather events such as flash floods are likely to occur three times more often by 2100.

The study– a high -resolution computer simulation– projected at least a fivefold increase in massive downpours in areas such as Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast and Southwest according to a study in the science journal–Nature Climate Change.

While scientists have already pointed out that across most of the United States, the heaviest rainfall events have become heavier and more frequent over the past few decades, the new computer simulation shows how much worse it will get, and what places will be affected. The reason is attributed to the fact that with man-made climate change, extreme downpours are likely to increase as warmer air holds more moisture.

Solution to Climate Change: While India keeps pushing for large dams built in the name of hydro power, Solar Photo Voltaics are emerging as a phenomenon across the world. An answer given by Paul Mainwood, former academic on Quora (the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights) believes Solar PV is a “solution to climate change” which does not reply on government. Emphasising that “existing technology, market forces, and time” is all that is needed for Solar PV to become a mainstream source of energy.

According to Mainwood the solution comes in three parts:

  1. Solar PV generation so cheapthat it beats any other energy generation option on levelized cost.
  2. A cost-effective energy storage solution to solve short-term intermittency (hours and days): i.e., cloudy days, nighttime.
  3. A cost-effective energy storage solution to solve long-term intermittency (weeks and months) i.e., winter.
You may also like to see DRP News Bulletin 05 Dec 2016 and DRP News Bulletin 28 Nov 2016

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